Meet My Book: Let Her Go, by Dawn Barker

It’s a pleasure to welcome Dawn Barker to the blog today, here to introduce us to her new book Let Her Go.

Welcome, Dawn.

 1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

My second novel is called Let Her Go. It’ll be published by Hachette Australia on 24th June, 2014

2. Why did you write the book?

I first thought about writing Let Her Go after watching a documentary about a woman with a medical illness who used a surrogate mother to have a child. In the show, her husband was very much in the background, and when the surrogate mother attended the child’s first birthday party, it was clear that she was still very much attached to the child she had carried. There was something in the body language of both women that made me wonder how they both really felt, behind their smiles.

I then heard more and more about the advances in fertility treatment, and read stories in magazines about people buying eggs and embryos overseas, then paying women to carry the children for them. Around the same time, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and saw that the world she imagined in a speculative fiction novel – where an underclass of women are used for reproductive purposes – is not that far removed from the one we live in now.

I personally felt conflicted: being a mother myself, I would never deny anyone the right to experience the joy of being a parent, but there are ethical issues to consider. I wanted to write Let Her Go to explore my own feelings about this complex issue.

3. How long from idea to publication?

About two years – though it took about a year from writing the first words on the page until it went to the printers.  I didn’t realise before I was published that so much that went on behind the scenes after the author finishes writing the story!

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

I have three young children, and work as a psychiatrist, so for me, the hardest thing was finding the time to keep writing! I like to write every day so that the story stays in my head, but of course, being a mum has to take priority. I had to be very strict by setting myself daily word targets and deadlines to make sure that I kept the momentum going.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

The cover! It looks fabulous next to the cover of my first novel, Fractured.

 6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Writing Let Her Go really reminded me that everything we do as parents, or prospective parents, has an effect on our children. As a psychiatrist who works with children and families, I know that a family is a system where each person has an influence on everyone else, but writing this novel and putting myself in the heads of my fictional characters really emphasized to me that babies grow into adults who are influenced by their early lives.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

I am having a little party to celebrate the launch at the end of June, but I remember my publisher once told me to celebrate every stage – so I raised a glass when I finished the edits, when I saw the cover, and when it went to print!

8. And how will you promote the book?

I’ll be doing some interviews for websites and magazines, lots of library and bookshop talks in Western Australia, and hopefully some writers festivals. I’m also happy to Skype into book clubs around the country if readers would like to discuss their reactions with me.

9. What are you working on next?

I’m just about ready to start my third novel. I’ve had the idea for the topic in my head for a year or two now, and have done all the background reading. Once Let Her Go is released, I’m looking forward to locking myself away and starting to write it!

1o. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

I love to hear from readers. They can connect with me via my website,, facebook ( or twitter @drdawnbarker


Thanks for visiting, Dawn.

Let Her Go is out today and available in good bookstores or online.

Martha Doesn't Share, by Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley

Martha has learnt a new word and is using it quite a lot. The word is ‘MINE!’ and she’s applying it to everything around her. Her parents and little brother would quite like her to share, but Martha’s having none of it. Until she discovers that having everything isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. This is a landscape-format paperback with a mauve and pink cover. Martha and her family are soft anthropomorphised otters. Endpapers show Martha at her non-sharing best. Illustrations depict Martha and her family in soft pastels and include large areas of white space. This is an international edition of the original US edition.

Martha’s parents try all sorts of ways to introduce the concept of sharing to this strong-willed child but with little success. Indeed they almost quake in the force of her ownership bids. They withdraw then and leave Martha with all her things. But Martha discovers this isn’t what she wanted after all. Martha Doesn’t Share sends a very clear message about the value of sharing. But never fear that Martha is completely reformed by her discovery of the up-side of sharing. The final opening shows Martha is still fairly sure that she owns most of the world. Recommended for preschool age children.

Martha Doesn’t Share, Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley
Hachette 2010
ISBN: 9780316126359

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Old MacDonald Had a Farm, by Mandy Foot

ld MacDonald had a farm…E-I-E-I-O!

This well known children’s song is brought to life with a fresh perspective, illustrated by Mandy Foot. Foot’s comic, colourful acrylics bring the animals and the farmer himself to life in pages filled with joy. As well as some traditional favourite farm animals including sheep, pigs and cows, there are some good Australian favourites including a kangaroo, cheeky emus and kookaburras giving the book a real Aussie feel.

This is an excellent offering for teaching children the song, making it useful in primary music classrooms, but will also be loved by kids who already know the song. Mandy Foot is a self-proclaimed animal nut, and this shows in her lively animal characters. Great stuff!

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Old MacDonald Had a Farm, illustrated by Mandy Foot
Hachette, 2010
ISBN 9780734411396

this book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Georgiana, by Libby Hathorn

‘Flinders Bay,’ came the triumphant cry, bringing everyone on deck to take a good look at what was to be their new home. It was only three short days since their new vessel, the Emily Taylor, had taken on board its group of free settlers. All of them disappointed, though somewhat seasoned by six weeks or more at the Swan River settlement, all of them eager for the big land grants that were up for grabs further down south, where only sealers and whalers had been!

Georgiana Molloy is 23 years old and newly married when she arrives in the new settlement of Augusta. Fresh from England, and pregnant with her first child, she is determined to make a new life here for herself, her husband Jack and their planned family. As Jack busies himself with his work as magistrate, and the day to day business of establishing their new land, Georgiana is charged with the house and garden. Soon, as well as the practical vegetable plot which is an essential part of colonial life, she also has a flourishing flower garden.

Georgiana: Woman of Flowers is the tale of one woman’s contribution to the development of the settlement of Augusta and the Vasse region and, more particularly, to the knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area. As she works to build a life for her family, Georgiana also studies the plant life around her, collecting samples, recording her observations and sharing her knowledge both with experts and with other settlers.

As well as being an inspirational record of one woman’s life, this is also a wonderful introduction to the lives of colonists in general, and especially to the life lead by women settlers. Hathorn takes us inside Georgiana’s life and also that of young Will Summerfield, a young settler who she befriends, allowing readers to connect with the hardships and challenges, as well as the growing affection for this strange new land which both characters develop.

An excellent introduction to the life of the woman known as the woman of flowers.


Georgiana: Woman of Flowers, by Libby Hathorn
Hachette, 2008

This book is available from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cairo Jim and the Astragals of Angkor, by Geoffrey McSkimming

The whole train of events was set into motion because of seven marshmallows.
Seven raspberry-flavoured marshmallows, to be exact. Seven raspberry-flavoured marshmallows that were shaped like miniature walruses, to be even more exact. Seven raspberry-flavoured marshmallows shaped like miniature walruses that had been made by the Poshoglian Sweets, Confectionery and Custard Company, Incorporated, if you want to know the minute details.

The Old Relics Society in Cairo has a large underground vault. In it are many treasures, some secret, some almost forgotten by those who put them there. It is here that Cairo Jim discovers six of the seven legendary Astragals of Angkor. Surprised that they truly exist, Cairo Jim is astounded and dismayed that they are in the vaults rather than in the Cambodian temple where they belong. Why is there a trail of plaster dust leading away from the carvings? Further investigations reveal that there is more mystery surrounding the carvings. They also discover they are not the only ones keen to discover the whereabouts of the seventh carving. Cairo Jim is ably assisted in his adventure by Doris, a talking Macaw and Brenda the wonder camel as they race to prevent the unthinkable happening.

Cairo Jim and the Astragals of Angkor: A Tale of Extraordinary Entanglement is the eighteenth adventure for Cairo Jim, as discovered and chronicled by Geoffrey McSkimming. Jim’s passion is archaeology, but his life is filled with mystery and adventure. ‘Cairo Jim and the Astragals of Angkor’ also features Cairo Jim’s other passion – poetry – although some of the other characters seem to wish it didn’t. The point of view is omniscient and allows the reader rich insight into the thoughts of all characters. McSkimming draws the reader into a world full of adventure and excitement. There is a traditional baddy, Neptune Flannelbottom Bone intent on achieving his newest nefarious aims, no matter the consequences. Bone is assisted by his own animal companion, a flea-ridden, unlikeable raven, Desdemona. Cairo Jim’s connections are wide-ranging and his adventures take him all around the world, as he races to stop Bone. A rich, funny adventure, it is sure to appeal to mid-primary to early secondary aged readers.

Cairo Jim and the Astragals of Angkor: A Tale of Extraordinary Entanglement, Geoffrey McSkimming
Hachette Children’s Books 2007
ISBN: 9780733616617

Victory, by Gary Crew

No sooner had the rumbling ceased, than Admiral William Ajax Burlington, commander of Her Majesty’s Pacific and Orient Fleet, broke into a smile of such enigmatic bliss that not one of use who witnessed it could possibly imagine that this mountain of a man was about to fall – facefirst and stone dead – into the now empty oyster platter which sat on the damask cloth before him.

When the dinner-party guest seated alongside Sam Silverthorne dies at the table, Sam is shocked. But he is also curious. How could Admiral Burlington have been murdered in full view of all the guests, with no one knowing how it was done?

The murder is the start of a new adventure for Sam who, along with his friends Lucas, Phoebe and Alice, is soon aboard a ship sailing for Madagascar in search of some answers.

Soon Sam and his friends are in pursuit of murdering slavers, poisonous shellfish and the extinct Dodo Bird (Sam and his father are naturalists).

Victory is the third offering in the Sam Silverthorne series but for those who are new to the series (such as this reviewer was) there is enough back story to enable this instalment to stand alone. Set in the late nineteenth century, in a time of sailing ship and no mass communication, the story has a comfortable familiarity in its Indiana Jones-style adventure, with Sam duelling and capturing baddies. At the same time, it is interesting (and heartening) to see Sam share with readers his distaste at the experience of killing a man and, elsewhere, witnessing a violent death.

An exciting read which will see new readers looking for the earlier titles, and fans eagerly awaiting Sam’s next adventure.

Victory (Sam Silverthorne)

Sam Silverthorne: Victory, by Gary Crew
Hachette, 2007

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Sea Secrets, by Gillian M. Wadds

We climbed over the rocks and at last sank into the cool water. Lazily we swam out through the narrow entrance looking down through our masks at the slowly moving underwater world: little brown waving trees, bunches of green lettuce, long strands of brown leather kelp. I hung there, weightless, floating in the clear water until I noticed something strange wedged into the rocks. I surfaced and dragged off my mask.
‘Hey, Jodie,’ I yelled. ‘Come over here!’

It’s school holidays and summer is well and truly here. While swimming with Jodie, Zena discovers a bag of abalone on the floor of Stingray Pool. She takes some home and shares them with her friends. Sean’s policeman father warns her to be careful, abalone poachers can be dangerous. Zena and her friends are uneasy but not too worried until their friend Tran disappears. They learn more and more about abalone and the risks poachers will take to harvest it. Summer is about to get much more exciting than they expected.

The front cover of Sea Secrets shows a view from underwater looking upwards. A diver floats next to the reef and seems oblivious to a shark swimming nearby. But it is the human ‘sharks’ who present most danger for Zena and her friends. Like the shark, danger circles closer and closer as they search for their friend. Gillian Wadds’ characters reflect the ethnic diversity in an urban environment without making a feature of their similarities and differences. They are just children, experiencing and responding to their environment, alternately excited by and fearful of what they find. There are family and cultural elements interwoven with the story, providing many topics for further discussion. Recommended for upper primary and early secondary readers.

Sea Secrets, by Gillian M Wadds
Hachette Children’s Books
ISBN 9780734409782

Kenny's Big Adventure, by Philip Garside

Mr Butler is my English teacher and he has given me a lot of help and advice about how to write this book. He says that the first two chapters are where you put all the stuff that helps readers know who is who and what is what in your story.
Hi, my name is KB and this is my autobiography. I am thirteen years old and I am an only child except for my younger brother Martin.

Kenneth Boyd LeMesurier (KB) is so sure that his trip to Tasmania will be the most boring ever, that he only agrees to go if his friend Josh can come too. KB’s Dad and his mate Jim are on a field trip determined to find evidence that Thylacines still exist. KB, Dad, Josh and KB’s brother Martin fly to Tasmania where they are met by Jim. Their adventure begins almost immediately when they are followed from Launceston airport. Things become steadily more challenging the further they progress into the wilderness. But nothing could prepare them for what they find.

Kenny’s Big Adventure is written as though the nearly fourteen year-old main character is also the writer. There are comments about discussions with Mr Butler the English teacher and with the editors who help him find a shape for his story. This is an exciting, crazy adventure, made even funnier by KB’s ‘asides’. From his responses to a suggestion that he use more active dialogue tags, and that he describe the flora (‘We saw a lot of trees in the forest,’) and fauna (‘I’m glad that we didn’t’ see any snakes. I think Josh would have died had we seen snakes.’), the reader is offered another dimension on KB’s character. A wild and funny read. Highly recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers and early secondary.

Kenny’s Big Adventure, by Philip Garside
Hachette Children’s Books 2007
ISBN: 9780734410115